I woke up slowly. I was still curled protectively around Elsie who was still fast asleep. I yawned as quietly as I could and lay quietly next to Elsie, listening to the rhythmic tempo of her heartbeat. It wasn’t long however before boredom got the better of me and I shifted around slightly and woke her.
“Mmhh, good morning.” She said sleepily.
“Morning sweetie.” I replied.
She shifted around and stretched before digging herself out from under the covers. I followed suit before opening the door and heading for the kitchen. Everyone was already up and about and watching TV.
“G’morning everyone.” I said stretching my wings out from behind the couch.
I got a few “Mornings” in reply but I was more distracted by Terra’s shocked face. She was staring at me from the other end of the sofa, apparently still a little resentful when it comes to dragons. It probably wasn’t helping that I was standing as tall as I could and had my wings stretched as far as they would go. I looked down and realized I wasn’t wearing anything, I must have really been out of it the night before. Luckily, scales already act like a set of clothes so I had nothing to fear.
“You know it’s rude to stare Terra.” I said.
“It’s hard not to.” She replied, blushing a little.
She returned her attention to the TV and I headed to the kitchen, my nose leading me to the three plates left out for Elsie and me from breakfast. I picked up two of them and seth them down on the table. I returned to get the carton of guava juice and two cups for us. I had just sat down and pouring a glass of juice for myself when Elsie came and joined me. We ate our breakfast and I went to wash the dishes while Elsie joined everyone else in front of the TV.
I joined them a few minutes later and spread myself out sphinx style on the ground next to Terra. Daniel was getting antsy and wanted to do a few rounds of Mario Kart and everyone was up for it. He put the disk into the Wii and passed around the controllers to me, Max, Terra and kept the last one for himself. We played a few rounds and passed the controllers for about an hour or two before we switched back to the TV again. They were having a Fringe marathon on the Science Channel so we settled on that while Elsie came over to where I was laying.
“I wanna go flying.” She told me during a commercial break.
I thought about it a second before replying, “How about this, today is Friday and it’s gonna be dark in a few hours. Why don’t we go flying tomorrow to that one spot we found. We’ll leave early and come back late, just you and me together.”
“That sounds good to me!” She said.
Halfway through one of the episodes Terra’s hand reached down and started scratching me behind the ear. I was a little startled at first but it felt so nice and I didn’t protest; instead I just closed my eyes and zoned out. She continued for a minute or so, scratching here and there before letting her hand hang limp over the arm rest. I pushed my head into her hand again. I don’t know why she stopped; it felt so good. She pulled her hand away and I opened my eyes. Everyone was staring at me and Sam had his phone out.
“What?” I asked confused.
“Aww, you were so cute!” Daniel said in his baby voice, “You were purring and stuff, you looked just like a cat.”
“Did I really?” I asked.
“Yeah you did.” Max said.
“Ugh, whatever.” I sighed, “And if I see that video up on the internet Sam, I’m gonna kill you.”
He quickly hid his phone behind his back, “Wha- how- I didn’t take a video of anything.”
I stared at him until he pulled it back out and deleted it. We returned to Fringe and watched it until Terra had to leave. We said our goodbyes and I decided that it was probably a good time to head to bed so we had plenty of energy for tomorrow's excursion. We retreated to our room and snuggled under the covers but not before I set my alarm so we would for sure wake up early before drifting off to sleep.
The alarm buzzed in my head and I was awake instantly. I shut it off and stretched; Elsie was still waking up so I freed myself of the blankets and headed for my closet. I was reaching for a pair of pants when I realized it would just be me and Elsie so I turned and headed for the kitchen. I grabbed a pack of bacon from the fridge and a frying pan and started cooking. I fried up the whole pack and headed back to our room with bacon in hand.
“Here you go breakfast in bed.” I said handing her the plate.
“Why thank you.” She said.
I grabbed my backpack and stuffed some water and four MREs inside. I probably would have been fine with only two but I wanted to be safe even though each one is almost 2000 calories. I slung the pack over my shoulder and buckled the waistband before tightening the straps. It took a bit of adjusting to make sure I still had full range of motion in my wings before I told Elsie I was ready.
We went out back and didn’t waste time taking to the air. We headed in generally the same direction as last time, hoping that if we didn’t hit the exact same spot we would be close enough to find another. The morning cloud cover made it a little hard in the beginning but once the sun came out the thermals arrived and the rising air made it easier to fly.
We started playing a game to see who could flap the least. She had the advantage of years of experience and larger wings but I could see where the best thermals where and was able to keep my wings still and make tiny adjustments. For a while there was no clear winner but I was getting tired and was already flapping more while Elsie was still gliding. I admitted defeat and pointed to a outcrop of rocks next to a river. She nodded and followed me down.
We landed and I dropped my backpack before settling onto the warm rocks. Elsie curled up next to me and we rested for a bit until her head shot up and stared over the forest.
“What is it?” I asked her.
“I don’t know, but I heard something. I think someone is being attacked.”
I perked my ears up and scanned the horizon. It wasn’t long before I heard it too. A roar echoed through the trees, closely followed by a cry for help. I looked to Elsie and she nodded and we launched into the air. We searched the ground through the canopy and found them about a mile away. I stopped mid flight and hovered, staring at the situation before me.
There was a human as we expected but she wasn’t being attacked, she was caring for someone to help half dragon next to her. His cries of pain where obvious. Azure blue scales covered his arms and legs and a tail was already growing. The scales were quickly making their way up his back and I descended as his wings began to grow. Elsie was already trying to comfort the girl and I stayed in the air. His wings were massive and the membranes where a paler blue. His head finished transforming with a yell that came out as a roar. He gathered himself as well as he could and glanced at the girl with Elsie before disappearing into the woods. He was running, well stumbling, as fast as he could, tearing off what little remained of his clothes. I followed him for a bit before I decided he had gotten far enough. I landed in front of him and he recoiled back.
“Stay back! Stay away from me!” He hissed.
“Hey, calm down.” I said, “It can’t be good for you to be frantically going nowhere and using even more energy to try and get away from nothing.”
“And what would you have me do?” He demanded.
“I would have you stop and calm yourself down for one. Then I would think about what I’ve lost and what I’ve gained.” I said.
He sat on his haunches and turned his head, “Easy for you to say.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” I asked a little annoyed.
“You’re parents probably don’t openly detest dragons.” He spat before turning back to me, “And don’t think I don’t know what you’re doing here. You and your partner I saw earlier are probably here to recruit us into whatever is left of the Clan.”
He started to crawl away as fast as could be managed for a new and uncoordinated dragon. I would have let him go and sort things out for himself but his last remark got to me. I launched myself after him; pushing him over and onto his back. I got a good grip on his arms and pinned his tail with my leg so he couldn’t swipe me with it.
“Me and Elsie aim to do no such thing! We went for a flight together and were resting when we heard you and came to help. I got transformed while protecting her a second time from The Clan so I don’t expect that we mean to recruit you.” I paused and took a few breaths, “Now, when I get off of you, you have two options. Option one: I let you go and leave you to do whatever you want. Option two: I help you get on your feet and we go meet up with Elsie and your friend. So what’ll it be?”
He took some time before giving me an answer, “Number two.”
I hopped off and helped him to all four legs. It would be easier for him to walk on four legs for now. Once he was able to walk comfortably without stumbling I moved on to the wings. He caught on to really quickly and in half of the time it took him to learn to walk, he had full control over his wings.
“Unusual wingspan. I think we can head back now; if you’re up for it that is.” I offered.
“Yeah sure. Are we gonna walk?” He asked.
“Actually, I had an idea. Think you can hold your wings open and not move them?”
“I think so.”
“Good then follow me.”
I had decided to walk quadrupedally like him so he wouldn’t get depressed. He followed me to a break in the trees where I instructed him to open his wings and hold them in place. I walked up behind him and stood him up. Before he could ask me what I was doing I grabbed him by the waist and jumped as high as I could and started beating furiously. He screamed but kept his massive wings open the whole time.
I felt like I was pushing a cart with rusty wheels. His large wings provided more lift than mine at my slowest cruising speed so I had to work even harder not to stall. I brought him down on the rocks next to my backpack before leaving to get Elsie. I spotted her coming out above the treeline, a person held in her arms. She spotted me and followed me back to the rocks. I landed after Elsie had deposited her passenger and found the new drake curled up in a ball.
“Her name is Alice.” Elsie said after she came and stood next to me, “Apparently they were hiking when he saw something in a bush. When he reached for it he got cut and started to change.”
Alice was steadily making her way towards the curled up dragon. She stopped and sat down next to him, cautiously reaching out.
“Peter?” she asked, setting a hand on his side.
“Stop Alice, just go away.” He pleaded.
Peter lifted his head and looked at her, “You don’t hate me?”
She wrapped her arms around his neck, “No! I love you Peter, no matter what species you are.”
He uncurled himself and hugged her back. They let go and made their way back to Elsie and me. I was getting out the MREs I packed and held them up for the two of them.
“Care to join us for some lunch?” I asked.
“Yes please!” Peter replied.
“Here you two can have these ones.” I said handing over the packages.
They looked at them curiously and I added, “They’re MREs, Meals Ready To Eat. Open them up and find the main course and the heating pack.”
They opened them up and found the main course and held them in their hands wondering what to do next.
“Now comes the best part, trading each other for the meal you want. I got vegetable manicotti in sauce.” I said.
“Enchilada.” Alice said.
“Ooh! Wanna trade?” I asked her.
He hesitated before handing it over and taking mine, “Sure!”
“Aww, but I wanted that.” Peter groaned.
“Sorry man, to slow. What you got?” I asked.
“Meatballs in marinara sauce.” He replied.
“I got enchilada to. Do you want it?” Elsie asked.
They swapped and I showed them how to use the heating packs and setting it at an angle using a “Rock Or Something”. They laughed when they saw that on the packages. While we waited for the food to cook we chatted and used the included drink mix.
“Hey Edge, what did you mean by ‘unusual wingspan’ when you were helping me out?” Peter asked me.
“Oh, yeah. Here, it’ll be easier for me to draw it than just explain.” I said reaching into my pack.
I pulled out a pad of paper and a pen and drew three simplified airplanes.
“This one here,” I said pointing to the first one with stubby wings, “is like a fighter jet. It’s wings have a low aspect ratio which makes it highly maneuverable but needs a lot of energy to fly. Got it?”
“So far yeah.” He replied.
I pointed to the next one, “This one has a moderate or standard aspect ratio and is common on most planes. It gives an equal balance between maneuverability and energy used to stay aloft.”
“This last one is you and Elsie. You two have a high aspect ratio wing which is used mainly on gliders. I’d wager a bet that once you have some experience flying you could probably flap your wings once every three minutes or so and fly for a day.” I said finishing.
“Wow really?” He asked excitedly.
“Yeah, you have a good eight feet or so in length and her wingspan is 14.5 feet; not to mention the membrane reaches part way down your tail. I’d put you as a courier or a scout if the clan would have gotten hold of you.” I said.
“I’m glad they didn’t.” Alice said.
“Either way food’s probably done.” I said.
We sat and ate our meals, trading and passing around the snacks. After we finished I towed Peter back to the trail where he had changed and Alice was carried back by Elsie. They both said thanks you about a million times before heading back along the trail. Once they were out of site I immediately searched for whatever had changed him. I was scanning the brush when I spotted a small glint. I investigated and found a little vial; it was probably filled with the transformation compound and had been left behind by the dragons who laid the trap. I took it and pit it in my pocket, I would give it to James when we got back so he could study it more. We left the trail behind and returned to the rocks to clean up from lunch.
“Well that was unexpected.” Elsie sad to me.
“Yeah, I’m a little worried for Peter though. He said his parents hate dragons.” I explained.
“Really? Alice said the exact opposite about her parents. I hope they’ll be alright.”
“I’m pretty sure they will, come on, you wanna head back now?”
“I guess so.”
We shoved the remaining trash into my pack before I swung it back on. We took the the sky again and passed Peter and Alice after a little bit. We lazed around and glided most of the flight until we reached the house at sunset. We stayed up and watched the sun set before landing in the backyard. I timed everything perfectly or as perfectly as I could because flying during twilight is a pain; you can hardly see anything in the changing light and the same can be said for dawn. I was so drained, all wanted to do was sleep and I headed straight for my room. Max was trying to tell me something and I couldn’t really be bothered at the moment. I stepped inside and swung my pack on the ground near my desk before literally falling into bed. It wasn’t more than two seconds that went by before I was asleep.